Local Marines return from Afghanistan

June 27th, 2010    Author: Brett A. Roller    Filed Under: News

The Clermont County Commissioners honored two local Marines who served together in Afghanistan at their May 21 meeting.

CPL Justin Kieffer of New Richmond and LCPL Colten Neu, of Union Township recently returned from five months in Marjah, Afghanistan.

Neu, a 2008 graduate of Glen Este, said they were sent to Afghanistan as part of the December troop surge. Their task was to eliminate the Taliban in the region and establish a relationship with the local residents.

"When we rolled in it was a ghost town," Kieffer said. "After a couple of weeks they started coming back in. It was cool to see that."

Neu said they saw several Afghanis leaving in small trucks piled high with their belongings when they first arrived. They were leaving the area in response to rumors of heavy fighting between the increased American forces and the Taliban, however Kieffer said they encountered little resistance and once the locals received word that it was safe they began coming back.

"We heard all the time that they felt a lot safer now that the Marines are there," Neu said.

Neu said they eventually developed a relationship with the village elder. He asked them to remove several IEDs from his field.

"The village elder said he didn't support the Taliban and he wasn't afraid to fight them off," Neu said.

Kieffer, who also served in Iraq, said the Afghanis were very glad to see the Taliban being driven from their villages.

"The people are genuine. They want the Taliban gone," Kieffer said. "They're scared of the Taliban, they're scared of us, but they just want the Taliban gone."

Both Neu and Kieffer agreed that the support from home was a big help to them while they were overseas. They each received numerous letters and care packages from Clermont County residents they have never met, and that meant a lot to them.

"I almost preferred letters just to hear from people back home," Neu said.

But he said being in the same squad as a fellow Clermont County residents was a big perk when the mail came in.

"It was cool because we would get Skyline packages and none of the other guys even knew what that was," Neu said.

Neu and Kieffer both said that Ohio is one of the biggest supporters of American troops in the country, and Clermont County was the biggest supporter in the state.

"I just want to say thank you for the support we received," Kieffer said. "It's a really big deal to get care packages from people you have no connections with, a really big deal."

Neu and Kieffer will be stationed at Cam Lejune, North Carolina for at least the next six months.

Both of the Marines received recognition from the Commissioners. They were also presented certificates from Tracy Braden of the Thank You Foundation. Braden said the organization was formed to remind everyone that they need to thank those that have served. Steve Caraway, field representative for Congresswoman Jean Schmidt also presented both men with proclamations from the Congresswoman.

"You will always be remembered as agents of democracy," Caraway said.
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